The tuition costs for all Utah institutions, except Southern Utah University, went up across the state for the 2019-20 year.
According to a memorandum from the Utah System of Higher Education, the average increase for this new policy was 2.46 percent among all nine public institutions in Utah.
Salt Lake Community College tuition increased by 2 percent, about $67, for a 15 credit-hour student for two semesters. The University of Utah, where most SLCC students transfer, raised tuition 3.2 percent, or $256, for the same type of student and schedule.
“Raising [tuition] seems questionable,” says Jaycee Galvin, a second-semester student at SLCC.
Each year, the Legislature holds a session to discuss the budget and how government money will be allocated. The amount of state taxes allotted to the schools and tuition are the two ways that the fees and costs of schooling are paid.
After the Legislative session has decided how much money from state taxes will be put toward education, the Board of Regents, along with institutions across the state, decide the possible raises in tuition and fees. They try to have the best education possible for the students at the most affordable cost, as well as maintain the goals of the institution.
The Utah Commissioner of Higher Education’s office sent out scenarios to all the institutions to discuss and then submit a proposal to the Board of Regents.
“These scenarios were taken through the President and their staff, then to the Board of Trustees, and then the Board of Regents to complete this whole process,” says David Buhler, former Utah Commissioner of Higher Education.
Buhler, who served as commissioner through June 30, says he agrees with the new process, but wishes the commissioner was able to make recommendations like before.
“I used to make recommendations, but now the president of each institution [has] to stick up for their proposals to the Board of Regents. I think it’s good,” he says.
To ensure that the student voices are heard, SLCC and other schools hosted Truth in Tuition meetings to solicit student responses.
Later, student body presidents from each institution attended the Board Meeting when their respective school was discussed. The proposal was accepted as a good solution, according to the feedback from those in attendance.
Student Debt When Leaving School
The average student debt for a person graduating from school in 2017 was $18,838. 38 percent of students graduated with some amount of debt.
As tuition goes up, student debt could follow the same pattern, increasing the financial burden on students.
“If it keeps getting higher, then what’s it for? I already work one job, but this could force me into two,” says Christopher Toney-El, a second-year student.
This could be a new reality for a lot of college students.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
In response to rising costs, options are limited.
“I will try to get more scholarships,” says Brandon Grover, a concurrent student at SLCC.
According to Utah System of Higher Education, this seems to be the route that a lot of students take. 57,594 Utah students received Pell Grants totaling $223,390,405 in the 2017-18 school year alone.
More students applying for scholarships and financial aid brings more competition for these same benefits.
“Competition for scholarships will go up. It will leave students in a scary place and push them away from school,” Toney-El says.
If tuition keeps rising, it could potentially push students out of school without the opportunity for higher education.
James Andersen, a returning student, is studying psychology. He took a break from higher education for the opportunity to work. He is returning after a four-year break.
Andersen says that tuition went up 30 percent from the last time he attended SLCC, adding, “We’ve got to find a way to figure it out. No bankruptcy burden for the future.”
Although tuition increased, it was not a drastic amount. The extra $67 for SLCC students would be the price of getting 7.14 percent of the Ikon Ski Pass, 11 Big Mac meals from McDonald’s, or the price of one used textbook online.